One of the two girls who spent the night stranded in the eastern Ontario woods Monday said they kept each other's spirits up during a sleepless night alone under a tree.
Elya Munro, 9, was playing a game similar to hide-and-seek with her 11-year-old cousin Ember Greatrix on Monday night when they got lost in the woods off Aird Lake Road, about an hour southwest of Calabogie.
OPP canine teams and a helicopter were dispatched to the area amid fears the girls might get hypothermia, but they were found safe about a kilometre or two into the bush early Tuesday afternoon.
"Ember wanted to go really far out [jnto] the bush and Ember thought we should go over the fence, so we went over the fence, then we got lost," Elya said in an exclusive interview.
"At first it was exciting, but then after a while it wasn’t exciting because we couldn't find our way back. Then we found the police officers and they got us and we went on those ATVs.
"I'm glad that I’m out of the woods."
Elya said she and her cousin were scared and thought they'd have to spend another night in the woods.
"Ember was really afraid, she thought she'd never get out of the woods.... [I said] 'I know we're going to make it out' and she said 'stay positive' and I did," Elya said.
"I told Ember to breathe because she was really nervous. She was scared something was going to get her in the night."
Father flown back from Texas
During the Munro family's interview with CBC News, Elya's father, Blake, arrived at the Napanee, Ont., restaurant where they were filming.
He said his employer, trucking company AW Clark, had paid to fly him back from Laredo, Texas, when they heard about his missing daughter.
"Just glad she’s safe. I never want to go through that again…. She’s home safe and she's healthy-looking and doesn't seem any worse for wear," he said.
"A lot of bad things were going through my mind. It's a dangerous area. Lots of water, lots of rocks, very concerned they'd been up all night…. You just feel helpless."
Elya's mother, Wanda, said she called 911 about half an hour after one of the children playing "manhunt" came back to say they couldn't find the girls.
Police "kept saying there’s a 98 per cent chance we'll find them, it's not like they've been abducted, they're in the woods somewhere, just give us time. So that kept sticking in my head," she said.
"One policeman took us aside and said, 'I have three kids myself. If my kids were lost, I'd want this team to find them.' So I thought, 'That's good.' It made me feel really powerful and hopeful."
Survival training lacking
Both parents said they felt safe with the children playing outside given their family had visited the campsite for decades, but should have talked more about what to do if they got lost.
"I think one of the biggest things I wish we had discussed is we always let our kids play like that, but we never told them 'if you ever get in a situation where you don’t know where you are, just stay put. Don't keep wandering around, just stay put,' " Blake Munro said.
"As you can see, she got farther and farther into the bush — so just stay put where you are, someone will come look for you."
"If they play manhunt anywhere, it’s going to be a lot different…. I know for sure we're going to go over survival things with them, carry a whistle, how to handle yourself out there, build shelters, just how to survive," Wanda Munro said.
Elya said she was given a stuffed beaver by one of the search crew members and would think about her night in the woods when she sees it.
"I'll remember I'll never go in the woods again," she said. "If I see a fence, I won’t go over it.”